When my son was small, he would make the same bedtime request every night. “Mom,” he’d say. “Will you sit by me, lay with me, and hold me?” Then one night, he didn’t ask. “Do you want me to sit by you, lay with you, and hold you before I go?” I asked. “That’s okay, mom. Night.” And just like that, my little boy was on his way to becoming a young man.
I never thought I could be an ideal “boy mom.” I just didn’t see myself as the rough and tumble, mom of boys type. It turns out, I love having a son. It’s been so intriguing to watch him grow, develop, and mature. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
1. You have a huge influence on your son.
The studies show it, and I’ve experienced it—moms have so much influence over their boys. We are their first teachers, nurturers, and comforters. Your relationship with your son helps shape his relationships with others. He learns how to let others treat them by the way we treat him. Dr. Meg Meeker writes that sons even learn self-value by the way we listen to them. “If he learns you do want to listen, then he figures out that he is smart—and that his words are worth hearing.”
2. You shape his spirituality.
Even if you don’t believe in God or practice religious faith, give your son a moral framework. If you practice a faith, share it with your son. Help him see the practicality of faith—the way it encourages you and carries you in daily life. Most of all, show him that faith has love at its core. Dr. Meeker says “we must exercise the love and complete acceptance that God gave us toward our sons so that they can understand exactly how unconditional our love for them is.”
3. You have the power to model apology and forgiveness.
I want my son to see that people are strong when they apologize, not weak. It takes courage to admit our mistakes. I’m ashamed to admit that I can use harsh words and a harsh tone with my son, especially when I’m tired after a long day at work. I say things to him in a tone I would never use with others, nor that I would allow him to use with others. After this type of episode, I apologize to my son. “The way I chose to speak to you last night was unkind,” I’ll say. “My message about how to correct your math test might have been right, but the way I talked to you was not. I am very sorry.”
4. You have the power to build him up or break him down.
My husband still thinks he isn’t good at memorizing things because when he was a child, his mother told him he has a bad memory. She didn’t mean to skew his view of himself, but that’s the power of a mother’s words. When a mom of boys tells her son he’s lazy, or disorganized, or stubborn—he believes it. But, thankfully, when we tell him he’s capable, kind, and intelligent, he believes that, too. Look for opportunities to point out your son’s strengths. Praise his attempts and help him frame his failures as growth experiences so he’ll see he has what it takes to tackle life’s challenges.
When a mom of boys tells her son he’s lazy, or disorganized, or stubborn—he believes it.
5. You can give him the vision to be a good man.
We need to show our sons that life has purpose and the best purpose is to care for others beyond ourselves and our interests. Point out men who balance achievement with having regard for others. Teach your son that every life has equal value. Help your son discover his purpose and learn how to step outside of himself to see and serve the needs of others. Encourage him to use his unique gifts to make a positive mark on the world.
6. You teach him how to communicate.
Research shows that children learn communication skills by the practice they get using them in their home environment. In other words, if we want our sons to know how to handle themselves well during an argument or disagreement, we need to teach them how to do it. Boys learn from society that men shouldn’t express a full range of emotions. Make your home and your presence a safe place for him to show how he really feels.
7. You have to let him go.
This one can be difficult, but we need to loosen our grip on our sons a little bit more every day. We need to do this so they can learn they are capable and that we believe they are capable. We need to let them face the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for the outcome of their choices. This doesn’t mean we stop protecting our sons. It means we support them emotionally and stay involved so that we curate situations and opportunities that stretch his abilities. We monitor his endeavors so we can step in when necessary to guide and problem-solve with him. My son turns 16 tomorrow. I am thankful, every day, for the gift of being his mother. And, hey, if I can be a “boy mom”—anyone can.
What’s your favorite part of being a mom of boys?